Peaceful co-existence, not Shastramev Jayate, is what secular India wants

Secular ideals in India threatened as religious meet chants ‘Shastramev Jayate‘ and dreams of building Hindu Rashtra through Muslim genocide

Where have we come to as a nation? A nation built on strong pillars of secular ideals is at risk. Haridwar, a temple town that used to be a perfect destination where harmony seekers used to frequent, now stays much maligned.

Calls to take up arms against brethren reverberated around Haridwar for three days together, and no one seems concerned. Sad is the current state of affairs in a secular republic that has held close ideals that are acceptable and applauded by all communities alike.

The ‘Dharma Sansad’ that came to a close on Monday needs to be seen as a pointer to where the country is heading at the moment. When a religious assembly provides a platform to promote hate speech against another community, we need to realise the manner in which criminal groups have gained in prominence.

A look at information that has begun flowing out days after the close-door event came to an end could come as a shock to all secular-minded people that hope and pray for peaceful co-existence of communities.

Secular ideals go for a toss as hatred takes over

Hatred against Muslims by the dominant Hindu community that inhabits this country is not new. The future looked bleak when bloodshed was the running theme when India celebrated its independence from British Raj. A Hindu Rashtra was what many had envisioned then. Luckily for the Indian soul, we had visionary leaders who never gave in to such narrow mindedness. A Constitution that held aloft the ideals of secularism was born with a pledge towards peaceful co-existence between all communities.

Years later, things have gone crazier. Right wing politics, and right wing extremism grew to an extent where the minorities are being made to run for cover. Religious fundamentalism is seen strangling every aspect of peace and harmony. Things have even gone to a level where even the dining table is being monitored. People’s thoughts, words uttered, food habits, attire and almost every aspect of an Indian life is being threatened.

And now, the Haridwar ‘Dharma Sansad’ has brought to the fore the ease at which fringe elements can play a decisive role in ensuring the building of a Hindu nation.

Organised by controversial religious leader Yati Narsinghanand, the conclave has reportedly called for a “war against Muslims”. Urging “Hindus to take up weapons” so that they can rest assured that that no Muslim shall be India’s Prime Minister in 2029, the conclave held between December 17 and 19 set unthinkably low standards in a secular nation like ours.

BJP Delhi ex-spokesperson among speakers

Shocking is the fact that a former speaker of the BJP in Delhi was among the speakers. Ashwini Upadhyay’s presence at the Hindu religious meet that called for a war against Muslims is something the ruling party needs to clarify on.

The three-day conclave, organised by Yati Narasimhanand, a religious leader who had been accused in the past of inciting violence with his hate speeches, had its own agenda for sure. And people like Hindu Raksha Sena’s Prabodhanand Giri, BJP women’s wing leader Udita Tyagi and of course Ashwini Upadhyay being part of the event is shocking, indeed.

Media reports have been talking of various speeches made by the Hindu religious fundamentalists at the event. One of them even points to a speech that spoke of “emptying all six bullets” in a revolver into ex-PM Manmohan Singh!

In another video that has surfaced, Prabodhanand Giri is heard exhorting Hindus to pick up weapons. A man with close ties with BJP leaders of the likes of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Dhami speaking thus, is indeed a matter of concern.

Another video is said to have Pooja Shakun Pandey or Sadhvi Annapurna as she is known as making a call to take up arms and unleash violence against Muslims. It wasn’t long back that Pooja Shakun was videotaped firing shots at an effigy of Mahatma Gandhi while shouting slogans praising Nathuram Godse. Most of the people speaking in the new videos are repeat offenders. That sums up the agenda.

The problem, however, lies elsewhere. Even after the videos surfaced, the police have been idle and waiting for someone to file a complaint to file FIRs. Open calls to malign, attack, kill fellow beings of another community have been made, and that itself demands action. A speaker talking of emptying his gun on former PM Manmohan Singh, calls for immediate booking and action. But the police haven’t been able to do anything.

Secular ideals are fast disappearing in India. The hate speech and calls to arms are testimony to this fact. A Hindu Rashtra is being built brick by brick in a land that is home to not just Hindus. And yet, we don’t care. Our founding fathers would have cared a lot. We, as secular beings, would expect the government we brought to power to uphold our ideals and ensure a peaceful co-existence. But will it? Let’s hope it would, so that India lives on.

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Sanjeev Ramachandran

A journalist with 23 years of experience, Sanjeev has worked with reputed media houses such as Business Standard, The Ne More »
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